By Dare Akogun
The signing into law by the Kwara State government, recently the amendment bill prohibiting the production, transportation, storage or sale of charcoal in the state couldn’t have come at a better time than this.
Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed while signing the bills said, “the amendment was necessitated by the need to strengthen existing laws against charcoal production and transportation in a bid to protect the environment and preserve our natural resources, especially valuable cash crops that can boost the state’s economy.”
The amendment bill, which was recently passed by the House of Assembly, seeks to protect the state’s ecosystem and save it from desertification occasioned by indiscriminate felling of trees and burning of such for charcoal used majorly in cooking by rural dwellers one of the major contributors to global warming.
Under the new law, an offender shall be liable, on conviction, to a fine not exceeding N100,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years— or both.
In addition, the person shall also forfeit to the government the charcoal and any vehicle, equipment or implement used in the commission of the offence.
Although Half of the world’s population, and up to 95 percent in poor countries, rely on solid fuel including biomass fuel and charcoal to meet their energy needs.
Fuel wood and charcoal are by far the most heavily consumed energy sources in Kwara state and most part of Nigeria, rural dwellers who are the custodians of forests resources depend solely on it for livelihood and increase in demand for charcoal.
Nigeria ranked the highest producer of charcoal in Africa and second in the world and the production trend of charcoal in Nigeria has over the years shown a steady increase yet Nigeria is not among the world leading nations in the exporting of charcoal which means the nation consumes a larger percentage of its annual produce locally.
The continuous production is promotional to continuous deforestation and desertification which in-turns are a threat to sustainable environment.
However, a ban on charcoal production will not be successful if alternative sources of energy is not provided.
These alternatives sources will help prevent destructive and illegal charcoal production and also serve as income generation.
These alternatives sources are Liquefied Petroleum Gas and Fuel sawdust / Biomass Briquettes.
LPG Consumption in Nigeria
Nigeria as a nation has been reported to be more of a gas country with an estimated reserve of about 186 trillion cubic feet (TCF). However, the Nigerian LPG industry has over the of gas-based market growth in the industry especially domestic LPG.
Nigeria has about 186 trillion cubic feet of gas and confirmed to be of very high grade with no sulphur, placing it as the world’s 7th largest gas reserves holder
but surprisingly she is among the lowest consumers of LPG or domestic gas in Africa.
Official sources estimate that Nigeria’s reserves potential could grow to as high as 600tcf, making it the world’s 4th largest.
Thus, the development of Nigeria’s domestic LPG, representing an increase of 11.5 percent from the Nigeria’s reserves potential could grow to as high as 600tcf, great measures due to the choice of firewood and kerosene as LPG market, without doubt has continued to be affected in domestic gas in Africa. Official sources estimate that LPG market of a country endowed with huge natural gas.
Despite obvious advantages of LPG over other domestic surprisingly she is among the lowest consumers of LPG or kerosene, which have been identified as major sources of emission.
Thus, the development of Nigeria’s domestic LPG market, without doubt has continued to be affected in great measures, due to the choice of firewood and kerosene as energy sources for cooking.
The situation is further exacerbated by various policies of the government in the sector. In 2012, Nigerians consumed a total of 145,000mt of LPG, representing an increase of 11.5 percent from the 130,000mt consumed in 2011.
However, in 2014, Nigerian households consumed about 150,000mt of LPG representing just an increase of 3.33percent, leaving a huge gap from the expected annual consumption ratio of which experts believe is not the best way to grow the domestic LPG market of a country endowed with huge natural gas reserves.
Utilization of Sawdust Briquette
Residues generated from the forests and the agricultural are left either decompose or are burned off which leads to
pollution and degradation. However, studies have revealed that these residues contain a lot of potential energy and they can be used to generate heat for domestic and industrial use.
There is no gainsaying that energy plays a major role in the development of a country and it largely improves the social
and economic life of the people, however If this energy problem is not properly fixed, Nigeria may fail in her target to be among the world largest economy by 2020.
The move by the Kwara State government if adopted by other state and the Federal government Nigeria will go a long way reduce the effect of this on the atmosphere.
It is also believed that if The National Charcoal Producers, Dealers and Exporters Association of Nigeria, (NACPDEAN), make firm resolutions and embark on massive reforestation project to ensure that the nation’s forests are well conserved and not depleted due to tree felling and other human activities.
Thus, the uses of forest trees for charcoal production still represent a threat to the future of the resources in local terms, especially in certain situations with high demand.
With adequate forest management, supervision and control practices, however, the growth of charcoal use will no longer have serious impact on forested areas that supply consumption centers.
Also, if measures are introduced to improve the supply of raw materials for charcoal production (through tree planting initiatives and participatory forest management), unsustainable production would gradually be replaced by regulated production on a sustainable basis which will in turn drastically reduced burning of fossil fuels.